Morocco. Tangier or “Somewhere in between”

“I always wanted to go as far as possible from the place where I was born. Geographically and spiritually. To leave everything behind”, Paul Bowles.

A cosmopolitan city in the very north of Morocco overlooking Gibraltar and Spain. It is also called “the door of Africa”.

From 1923 to 1956, Tangier was a magnet for writers, painters and spies who searched for every kind of freedom here. Tangier was an international free zone where people could enjoy hashish and various opiates of that time. Nothing was off limits. They dressed freely and chose the gender of their partners that way too.

Tangier was a cultural link in the Mediterranean for thousands of years, where both Jews and Muslims lived in peace. However, in the West it is popular to talk about Tangier from the interwar period in the 20th century, when the city was a wild playground for hedonists.

A city of immigrants, those who yearn for something or someone…many came and passed by, some stayed.

The writer and composer Paul Bowles wrote the novel “The Sheltering Sky” here, based on which Bertolucci made a famous movie. He remained in Tangier for the rest of his life, and his romanticised vision of Tangier is present to this day. A city of dreams that have become an inseparable part of reality.

Matisse found the light he was always searching for, William Borough was inspired to write the legendary novel “Naked Lunch”.

However, we should leave the past behind and move on. Tangier has an identity not only based on stories of artists from the past.

The first place I wanted to visit in Tangier was the concept restaurant Alma Kitchen & Coffee. It was founded by jewellery designer Lamiae Skalli and her husband art photographer Seif Kouzmate. They are part of a new generation of creatives from Tangier who are taking the initiative to reclaim their city’s narrative. “This city has so much to offer, we wanted to show that Tangier is not just pictures from postcards, camels and local teahouses”.

In the middle of the city where energies, cultures, languages ​​and smells of tagines from the kitchens of traditional houses mix, a modern restaurant with a variety of Mediterranean and South African flavour combinations and a selection of ingredients was born.

The place also functions as a hub where foreigners and locals come to spend some time in peace and open creative space. There is also a small shop that sells products by local designers and artists, as well as a vintage shop.

One of the reasons why I wanted to visit this place was the workshop that was held there that day. The organiser is Anou Cooperative, an organisation with a vision to preserve the Moroccan tradition of making handmade rugs using sustainable local materials, as well as to support and protect the artisan who make the famous Moroccan rugs and scarves. In Morocco, artisans get only 4% of the value of the product, so this organisation was founded so that these wonderful women from different parts of Morocco get what they deserve.

They are nice and warm hearted, creative and fast in manual movements on the loom. They say that it is not easy to do this work, as it requires practice and concentration…however, to make one large carpet, it takes a week and the hard-working hands of several women.

The central gathering place in Tangier is the cinema in the Grand Socco Square. La Cinémathèque de Tanger, the first art cinema in South Africa also has an interesting story. Yto Barrada, artistic and programming director of the cinema is a world-renowned Moroccan artist responsible for saving the old art deco theatre by transforming it to cinema. She actively advocates for the revival of film art in Tangier, and the concept is like a permanent film festival. The program here includes domestic, Central European, European, Latin and South American films, documentaries, short, animated films.
In a country where many international and local films have been shot, cinemas are closing and there are fewer and fewer opportunities to watch domestic films.

“Tangier is about 12 kilometres away from Europe, yet the borders are closed to Moroccans, and increasingly people are becoming closed in on themselves. If we can’t go out, we can still have a window on the world,” Barrada told for Bidoun magazine.

Let’s go further into the night and get to know Tangier. We are going to a party as part of the House of Beautiful Business festival on the roof of a building in the old part of the city. Labyrinths of alleys and Moroccans who follow us everywhere and annoy us by offering us “shish”… until we find the gate of the building where our team has a rented apartment on the top floor. The roofs in the Kasbah have a special charm, because it looks as if you can look from roof to roof over the entire Medina. Hoxha overpowers the murmur with his singing several times during the night. With us is the Moroccan actress and director Fatym Layachi, who tells us how she actually feels in Morocco, how she is constantly “somewhere in between” (Morocco and France or Tangier and Casablanca), since she was a child between different religions within the same family…Finally she accepted that “in between phase” as normal and transformed it into creation.

We are all a bit troubled by that question. Do we belong anywhere at all or do we stay in “somewhere in between”? As many people have to leave home to find their real home. Tangier is definitely a place where many have found that part of themselves that they have been searching for all their lives.

“Tangier is one of the few places in the world where you can do literally anything you want, except for stealing, violence and socially unacceptable behaviour”, William Burroughs

Coming coon: stories about special places and people in Tangier.

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The characters and events in this story are partly fictitious. Any apparent similarity to real persons or events is intended by the author and is either a coincidence or the product of your own troubled imagination.

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Nataša Nikodijević Savin
Curated by Nataša

Producer (by degree and DNA structure).
A creative leader in business.
Entrepreneur. An artist. Curator and narrator.
Multitasking talent. Improviser. The inventor.
Collector.

@natasa_nick
@myjourney.rs

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